Bad News From My Old Neighborhood

I was born in Moscow. Moscow is a very important city, but I lived in an unimportant industrial neighborhood—Biryulyovo. Don’t bother too hard to try to pronounce it.

It’s in the headline news now for sad reasons: A young man was murdered there by an immigrant, and now the locals are rioting and shouting racist slogans.

I don’t have much more to say about it. I haven’t lived there since 1991. My sister kept living there, and I visited her at my old apartment in 2005, but she moved since then, so nothing is tying me to that place except childhood memories. Still, it’s kinda upsetting that that’s the reason why I hear about it in the news. I wish that I’d hear about it in a happier context. For example, if a Metro station would be open there. But it’s unlikely that it will have one any time soon.


Made Me Cry – Misha

Moscow 1980 – Farewell, Misha (Flash)

In Soviet Russia the good things were very good.

In Soviet Russia the big things were BIG.

Yesterday i saw a child walking with a big colorful balloon and imagined him flying to the sky. And it reminded me of Misha – the mascot of 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Very few of the people who grew up in the Soviet Union won’t at least shed a tear when seeing the finishing ceremony of that olympiad. Its high point was “saying goodbye to Misha”, as he was released into the sky holding onto colorful balloons to the sounds of a sad farewell song. Everybody in Russia remembers the song. More than this, this is The Great Unifying Moment of post-Stalin Russia, comparable to 9/11 and Kennedy assassination.

So watch this movie. Don’t miss Misha himself shedding a tear at 0:47.

If this movie doesn’t make you cry, then you’ll never really understand anything about Russia.

Here’s the song. Lyrics – Nikolai Dobronravov, music – Aleksandra Pakhmutova. My translation is lousy, but i tried to make it rhyme; improvements are welcome. Website of the authors with links to music files is here: До свиданья, Москва.

На трибунах становится тише…
Тает быстрое время чудес.
До свиданья, наш ласковый Миша,
Возвращайся в свой сказочный лес.
Не грусти, улыбнись на прощанье,
Вспоминай эти дни, вспоминай…
Пожелай исполненья желаний,
Новой встречи нам всем пожелай.

Пожелаем друг другу успеха,
И добра, и любви без конца…
Олимпийское звонкое эхо
Остаётся в стихах и в сердцах.
До свиданья, Москва, до свиданья!
Олимпийская сказка, прощай!
Пожелай исполненья желаний,
Новой встречи друзьям пожелай.

Расстаются друзья.
Остаётся в сердце нежность…
Будем песню беречь.
До свиданья, до новых встреч.

The stadium stands are getting quiet…
Time of miracles is melting away.
Farewell to you, our tender Misha,
Go back home to your wood of fairy tales.
Don’t be sad, give a smile before the parting,
And recall these good days, please recall…
Wish us all the fulfillment of wishes,
Wish a new meeting soon to us all.

So let’s wish lots of luck to each other,
Let’s wish kindness and love with no end,
Bright and clear echo of the Olympics
Will forever be cherished and sang.
Farewell to you, Moscow, farewell,
Farewell, the Olympic fairy tale,
Wish us all the fulfillment of wishes,
Wish a new meeting soon to us all.

Friends are coming apart,
Tenderness stays in the heart…
We shall cherish the song.
Farewell, we shall meet again.

And on the flat-screen we kill and we’re killed again

My parents left to a vacation in Karlovy Vary. It was planned before the war, so they are not “refugees”. But before he left, my father said:

— “If they bomb our home in Nesher, call us. We’ll fly to Moscow.”

It was a joke, of course.

Still, i can’t escape the thought that that’s just what our enemy wants us to do – to go back to Moscow.

I was born in Moscow and lived there for eleven years. I love that city. I love the Russian language and the Russian culture. I have family and friends there. I can find a job there. But i just can’t think of going to Moscow in terms of “going back”, certainly not in the sense of “going back home”. My home is here.

I had an email discussion about this war with Mira, my pen-pal from United Arab Emirates. She’s a devout Muslim; she’s also very intelligent, and quite modern and liberal and feminist too. She says that Arabs – including herself – support Nasrallah, because everything that he says becomes a fact, while the Israeli government lies all the time. While i can’t accuse my government of excessive honesty, i find it rather disappointing that there are people who openly support someone just because he’s sincere about being a murderer of innocent civilians. The discussions with her put me back in proportion, though – i’m not talking about the numbers, the fact that we killed much more Lebanese than Hizballah killed Israelis, but the fact that something doesn’t make sense in all this.

I mean, seriously – can’t we end it in a few minutes? Don’t we know where those Katyusha’s are shot from? Can’t we just destroy the launchers? Why do we bomb civilians so hardly? Did they really all have launchers in their backyards?

Trouble is, no-one will ever take responsibility. Even if a government commission will list every single failure and human rights violation in this war, the generals and the politicians will keep getting their fat salaries and they will have bodyguards that look like Armani models until the rest of their life. An international court won’t help either – how can anyone trust them when they chase Serb criminals religiously, but don’t dare to touch Saddam, the Assad family or Kim Jong Il?

Someone must be laughing at our naïveté here.